Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Are we robot zombies or are we the pinnacle of humanity? Are we ahead of the evolutionary curve? Did we make the leap that all creatures with a finite lifespan have to or are we freaks? The universe remains as silent as it ever has on the subject.

No one dies of natural causes anymore.

We count our blessings but we’re scared. Dr Hansen saved us and doomed us all at the same time.

The year was 2020. “A year for vision”, they called it. And Dr Hansen delivered.

Immortality, eternal youth, the cure for AIDS and the Big C. All a person had to do was cease to be human.

“You see, our spirits are not our bodies. Our bodies are not our selves,” Dr. Hansen said. “Our brains are meat but our minds are something altogether different. We decay too quickly. The problem is what we’re made of, not who we are.”

He proposed a consciousness transfer into mostly artificial bodies. Sausage meat into a bullet casing. Nervous systems became calm systems. The hot red of blood became the cool blue of coolant. Neurons became nanocapacitors. Shreds of the original brain and nerves survived but were coffined into layers of hermetically-sealed exoskeletons.

The eccentric rich went for it. After that, Hansen cut corners and lowered prices, extolling his wares on telnet and oldweb. It sold well. The older folk, the terminally ill and the daredevil visionaries lined up. It created a very lively debate amongst the existentialists and religious scholars.

The military departments loved him. Living weapons were a reality; more predictable than the alien algorithms of flaky A.I.s. Unregistered mercenaries loved him as well.

Dr. Hansen became rich off of the patents involved, the factories that made the equipment, and the laboratories that made the switch. The black market, the grey market, and the legitimate downtown offices all were booming.

The thing that freaked the naysayers out was that it was a one-way switch. Just a glance at the metal skin of the warmechs or even the plastic skin of the short-lived humanomorph fad made a lot of people shut their eyes and shiver.

Sex was no longer possible in an artificial body. Orgasm programs and virtual reality were available stims for the fakebodies but it wasn’t the same. That fact made the young people stay away.

Dr Hansen was trying to figure out how to pitch to their demographic when the plague hit.

An airborne flesh-eating virus dubbed The End with a 98% communicability rate killed all the non-transferred people, Dr Hansen included. The higher primates all died as well. In one year, the population of the earth nosedived.

Everyone in Shells survived.

The earth is populated now by the minds of out-of-work soldiers, old people, and the once rich. Hulking metal weapons and artistic interpretations of the human form. Basic automaton models mixing with shining, high-end custom jobs. The population is holding at ten million, two hundred thirty thousand, and sixty-six.

Scared minds in tin cans.

We’ve been building shells again in an effort to propogate the species but we’re finding it difficult to clone new nervous systems with the virus still in the air. It hasn’t gone away. And most of Dr Hansen’s notes were lost in The End riots.

We are a closed system now. A finite population that can only get lower unless we figure out how to reproduce properly. Our scientists are working on it but not that many of them made the switch, oddly enough.

Until we can figure out how to reproduce, we wait.

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